Nearly 130 public libraries have closed in the last year

An annual survey of British libraries has revealed that almost 130 public libraries have closed in the last year in Britain and an extra 3,000 volunteers have been brought in to run remaining services.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), who carried out the survey, has revealed a similar picture each year since 2010, as the government’s austerity measures have left many local authorities with not other choice than to continuing to make more cuts.

Last year, spending on libraries by local authorities fell by £30 million with community-run libraries very much becoming the norm as councils ask volunteers to take the service off their books. Alongside the drop in spend, the survey also reports a net loss of 127 public libraries in England, Wales and Scotland, while 712 full-time employees lost or left their jobs.

As mentioned, volunteer numbers increased by 3,000, to 51,394. Public Libraries News suggests that there were only 10 libraries run by volunteers in 2010. That estimate now sits at 500.

Rob Whiteman, CEO of CIPFA, said: “A lack of funds is forcing many councils to get creative in how they deliver their services, and we find in our public libraries this loss of paid employees is creating a reliance on volunteers,” he said. “Similar cost-shifting is happening across almost all local government services, with communities finding everything from legal aid to green waste collection no longer as accessible. There really need to be some honest conversations about the direction of travel of our councils and what their role is, as the funding gap will continue to exacerbate these issues.”

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